Yaunce's Whisper

-The Ride to Supper-

Thunder cracked against the dark afternoon sky and rain battered the wilting trees, yet all would dissipate twenty or thirty minutes hence by the estimate of Yaunce Lox. The lightning flashed with more and more delay. The rain splashed with less and less ferocity. Indeed, tonight the storm must pass, as the Darlington Cabbage Supper was to begin promptly at moonup as it has every year past and will continue every year forward. A choice of suitable wear for the poor weather sat at the ready in the closet, but they would remain there--wet hats do not belong at a proper supper. Yes, the storm must end soon. It must.

And just like that, it did.

Yaunce adjusted his supper gloves and collar. He stepped outside and pussyfooted across the slippery wet cobblestone to his carriage. The Lox stable master emerged from the barn, also having noticed the end of the storm. Yaunce met the stable master, who would be the driver this evening, at the carriage.

“Afternoon, Denny,” Yaunce said with a nod.

“Howdy,” Denny replied, smelling faintly of hay.

Yaunce pondered the haystink a moment and decided it would have no bearing on his carriage party. The horses surely would serve as an excuse should anyone consider inquiring about the origins of the barnsmell. Regardless, Denny would sit outside the closed carriage and likely his odor would go unnoticed.

“To Prudence's first, please. And quickly--we've time to make up,” Yaunce explained. “The storm left little time to gather the party.”

Denny acknowledged with a nod and privately lamented the driving duty, the worst among his charges. His kinship with the horses and enjoyment of working the land helped him abide his otherwise tedious employment with Yaunce Lox. Night driving duty made him at least consider finding work at Jovial Farms. Negotiating the dark roads with two horses and full carriage tested his nerves. Musing a bit more, he acknowledged that the grass is always greener, as it were, and driving was infrequent, so complaints were kept to a minimum. Stable work for a stablemaster. Denny cracked his whip and commenced departure.

The carriage rounded the corner of the south side of Turnberry Estate.

“Prudence! Prudence, we're here!” Yaunce shouted from the carriage window. Already having waited thirty minutes, Prudence Edmonton was ready by the front door. She meandered carefully across the cobblestone, raising the hem of her traditional brown and yellow cabbage-supper dress to avoid dragging it in the rainwater. “Good afternoon, Denny,” she greeted the stable master as she climbed the carriage step. “Ma'am.” Denny tipped his hat.

Prudence Edmonton had been Administrative Steward of Turnberry Estate for a number of years now. Proper documentation and organization of the daily affairs of Dr. and Mr. Turnberry kept Prudence busy and fairly compensated. She took a seat across from Yaunce in the carriage. “Well I'll be, Yaunce! I've been waiting thirty minutes. I reckon the rain held you up again, didn't it? None the matter, we should still be on time for supper.”

Yaunce smiled broadly. “A pleasure to see you, as always, Prudence. Yes, the rain prevented my prompt departure, however, Denny will be sure to collect Bea and Claudia with plenty of time to spare for the beginning of supper. Even though the rain won't touch us in the carriage, poor Denny will be soaked. I do look forward to seeing the new serving cauldron for this year's cabbage harvest. Should be even better than last year’s supper!”

Prudence agreed heartily. “Darlington cabbage is a treat any time and the Cabbage Supper is such a joy. I'm glad to go every year.”

Prudence and Yaunce had attended fourteen Darlington Cabbage Suppers in a row. Claudia and Bea joined the supper party three years after. All made yearly attendance to the annual Darlington Cabbage Supper a priority, and none had missed a supper since they first started going.

The carriage halted under the broad, grand awning of House Rowno. Claudia Rowno emerged from the ostentatious front doors, greeted Denny, and entered the carriage. Her gown flowed with the traditional Darlington Cabbage Supper colors: golden strands against brown.

Claudia inherited a fortune from her grandparents when she was just twelve years old. When she finished school, Claudia began Rowno Mulery which was now the preferred associate of every Darlington farmer for any mule-related provisions. Claudia often spent considerable sums of cash, usually unwisely, but her success allowed for this. Always as gracious as she was splendid, Claudia brought a gift of new supper gloves for each in the supper party.

“Hello Prudence and Yaunce,” she said as she settled next to Prudence on the carriage bench. “I'm so excited for supper! Here, I brought you something.” Claudia handed her friends the pairs of new supper gloves and placed a pair on the bench next to Yaunce.

Prudence's eyes widened. “Oh, these are wonderful! You are the sweetest! These will be perfect for supper.”

Yaunce removed his old supper gloves and slipped the new ones on. “They are wonderful! Thank you so much, Claudia!”

“I'm so glad you like them. I thought they would be excellent for this evening. I can't wait!” Claudia gushed.

The group chatted about cabbage and memories of past suppers. Jovial laughter bounced from the carriage as it arrived at Drim Farms to collect the final guest, Bea Drim. Born Beatrice Hogswallop, Bea (as she preferred to be addressed) ended the unfortunate marriage to Bjorn Drim after his third child was born outside of their matrimony. For her willingness to overlook the first two children, Judge Barkston of Darlington County awarded Bea ownership of Drim Farms in the divorce proceedings, provided she keep the Drim name and continue to manage business operations.

Primarily yielding crops of beets, Drim Farms was a humble one-mule stead with a quaint house and weathered barn. Bea tended the fields during the warm months and distilled spirits in the winter. She brought a bottle of ten-year-old Drim Beet Gin to share with the carriage party as well as a small bottle of last winter’s batch for Denny.

“Good evening, Denny. For your trouble.” Bea handed Denny the small bottle of gin.

Denny’s eyes lit up as he accepted the bottle. “Beet gin! Thanks, Bea, this is most appreciated!”

Bea smiled. “You’re certainly welcome, Denny. Thanks for taking us to the supper every year.”

“Hello, everyone!” Bea cheerfully bleated as she climbed into the carriage.

“Good evening, Bea! Glad to see you—and nearly as glad to see Drim Gin!” Yaunce proudly wisecracked.

Bea elbowed Yaunce in the ribs and saw the pair of supper gloves sitting on the bench. She looked over to Claudia who was anticipating Bea’s response.

“Oh, thank you, Claudia! These are the nicest gloves!” Bea leaned and hugged Claudia before taking a seat next to Yaunce. “I cannot believe this year’s supper has come already! I always look forward to this.” The group exchanged pleasantries for a few more moments.

“To the Darlington Cabbage Supper, Denny!” Yaunce yelled out the window. “Don’t spare the whip! We can still arrive on time!”

Denny agreed, “To the Darlington Cabbage Supper.”


Denny tied the carriage to a hitch and led the horses to the stables. While the carriage party enjoyed the ceremony in the park, he enjoyed meeting with old friends and their horses.

The foursome made their way through the gates of Darlington Park and found an accommodating table close to the fires, but distanced enough to not be caught up in the bustle following the cabbage unveiling. The table was set according to cabbage supper tradition. A golden cloth adorned the table. Each place setting provided a plate, fork, knife, brown cloth napkin, and water glass. A large pair of tongs and a tall silver water pitcher sat in the middle of the table between four small candles. Yaunce made an uncharacteristically chivalrous gesture in helping each lady to a seat before sitting in his own. He reached for the pitcher and poured water for everyone.

“We made it, ladies. Welcome back to the Darlington Cabbage Supper!” Yaunce toasted, holding his water glass to the middle of the table. All clinked glasses and enjoyed a sip of cool Darlington spring water. “I told you we would arrive with time to spare,” Yaunce boasted.

“And here comes the supper leader now.” Prudence pointed to Supper Leader Garrils as he led his cook team to the fires in the center of the park. Garrils wore a formal brown suit with a golden apron tied around his neck and waist. He had been serving as Supper Leader at the Darlington Cabbage Supper longer than Yaunce had been attending. Each member of the cook team wore white kitchen suits with black and gold patches on the breast.

Upon the fires sat a grand iron cauldron. The lid clanked as steam escaped the lip and shared the smell of cabbage with the audience. A promise of savory supper.

Garrils climbed to the podium and struck the supper bell thrice.

“Good evening, wonderful guests. Thank you for attending the annual Darlington Cabbage Supper! A supple harvest this year! Let us begin.”

The cook team took positions and formed a square around the cauldron. The pair in the front and the pair in the back each lifted a long wooden staff and fitted both ends through rungs on the cauldron’s iron lid. They pressed upwards with wood to shoulder and removed the lid. A cloud of steam engulfed the center of the park. When it dissipated, the cook team tipped the cauldron and poured the cabbage into the silver trough.

“The cabbage is served!” Garrils bellowed as the crowd bustled.

Yaunce collected the tongs and his plate. He joined the cabbage queue with his companions and served each from the trough. “Splendid looking cabbage!” Yaunce exclaimed. “Splendid indeed. The salt and pepper, Claudia!”

Claudia nodded and selected a bowl of coarse salt and a pepper grinder.

The party returned to the table where Bea raised her glass. “To the harvest!”

“To the harvest!” everyone toasted in unison. They sipped the spring water and sat.

Yaunce took a pinch of salt from the bowl and crumbled it over his plate. He selected a supple leaf of cabbage with his fork and lifted it to his mouth. The firm vein supplied pleasant texture as the blade melted into pure flavor. Succulence, the most welcome of supper guests.

A member of the waitstaff approached the table and topped each glass from a fresh pitcher of water. She lifted the empty pitcher and replaced it with the one she brought.

The group spent the next several hours enjoying cabbage, spring water, and friendship.


The stables at Darlington Cabbage Supper always filled with the same regulars year after year. Harv Lampton, stablemaster of Calvern Farms, introduced Denny to Jolene Shanks, the new stablemaster of Jovial Farms.

“It’s nice to meet you, Jolene. I’m surprised to see a Jovial stablemaster here. The Jovials always ride their horses to the supper,” Denny said.

“You’re correct. The Jovials usually ride, but Lenny took ill last winter. Since then, they prefer riding together in the carriage,” Jolene explained. “I daresay Ann has taken a liking to carriage.”

“How was the ride in?” Denny asked.

“Tough in the rain, better when it dried up.”

Denny and Jolene talked horse for hours until the final supper bell rang and all the stablemasters returned to their respective carriages.

-The Ride Home-

Echoes of the supper bell still rang through the dark evening as the Lox carriage party departed. Denny squinted as he held his horse team to a gentle trot. The road home became more and more difficult to see as they travelled farther from the supper torches. Stars did not shine above, nor was the moon visible. Denny did not relish the idea of riding back in the rain and hoped to return each member of the party to their homes before any downpour. Meanwhile, the carriage party, contently sated, conversed cheerfully on the subject of supper. Laughs erupted from the carriage as Denny negotiated every dark bend expertly.

Unable to stave off pressing gastric demands any further, Yaunce leaned forward ever so slightly and confided a beefwhisper most foul to his carriage party. Claudia was mid-sentence, explaining her disdain for the supper waitstaff's inattentiveness to her water glass, when she swooned. Prudence fell as she reached for the door, the closest and most expedient option for relief, her last conscious action a failure. Denny heard Prudence land on the carriage floor and began slowing the horse as a matter of concern. Moments later, Bea exclaimed a shrill dissent as she too lost lucidity. Her scream startled Denny, distracting him from the also-startled horse, which took an errant step off the side of the road and cast the entire carriage, party, and driver, into the ravine where they all perished.

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